Nearest town: Martinborough, Wairarapa
Type of track: there and back
Official distance: I don’t know – maybe about 4km return
Official time: 2-4 hours, depending on whether you do both tracks or not
Jenny’s time: about 2 hours
Toilets: in the campground at the carpark
Tips: There’s not much shade, so if it’s the middle of the day, take a hat. And watch out for rocks falling/crumbling off the pinnacles!
Just a two hour drive outside of Wellington are the Putangirua Pinnacles, towering formations of crumbling clay and rock that loom over you in an amphitheatre of columns.
On the Southern coast of the North Island, they are in a wild and remote area where not many people seem to go.
To get there, take Highway 2 North from Wellington and when you reach Featherston turn onto Highway 53 towards Martinborough. Then turn right onto Kahutara road, following signs for Cape Palliser. You’ll arrive at the Putangirua Pinnacles car park shortly after you reach the coast again.
There are two tracks here. One goes up the valley at the base of the pinnacles and climbs up in between them. This is the one I did.
The hike up the valley follows a rocky stream bed, and is not the easiest path to see, but as long as you keep going up the valley you’ll be fine.
The first couple of rock formations you can see are rather, um….phallic looking.
When you reach the pinnacles you can climb up between them on steep, narrow rocky slopes. Be careful, the rocks under your feet are loose and the walls are crumbly!
This was a filming location in Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. Do you recognize it? Apparently they had to make sure the horses were fed only products that could not re-grow and contained no seeds, for fear of introducing new species to the area.
I would have liked to do the other track too, which goes up to a lookout over the tops of the pinnacles. Alas, we only finished the first part just at sunset and did not have any daylight left for more.
If you want to stay nearby, I recommend the small hamlet of Lake Ferry. We found a small ‘homestay’, where we literally had a little home to ourselves with our own kitchen, bathroom, lounge, and bedroom.
I also very highly recommend the Lake Ferry Hotel for food. We were astounded at the gorgeous presentation of a really delicious meal! I just don’t expect that level of professional chef-ery from a country pub.
At the Putangirua Pinnacles carpark there’s also a DOC campsite, which was deserted when we were there in the middle of April. It was cold though!
And from here you can continue down the coast to the village of Ngawi and on to the Cape Palliser lighthouse.
So for an easy but spectacular walk in a remote area, head to the Putangirua Pinnacles!